Friday, September 30, 2011

Hammond Out Waltrip In At The Hollywood Hotel

FOX Sports president Eric Shanks apparently liked what he saw when he teamed brothers Michael and Darrell Waltrip on several NASCAR telecasts earlier this season.

When the 2012 NASCAR on FOX season opens in Daytona, it will be the Waltrip brothers in the Hollywood Hotel. Jeff Hammond is out and will assume a new role as a roving pit reporter. Michael will also take Hammond's previous role of commenting from the Hollywood Hotel during and after the race.

Chris Myers will remain as the infield host with Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds also keeping their current roles in the TV booth next season.

Here are some excerpts from the NASCAR on FOX media release on the subject:

Bonded by blood and their limitless passion for NASCAR, Michael Waltrip, driver, owner and pitch-man extraordinaire joins the FOX NASCAR SUNDAY prerace team next season, taking a seat in the famed Hollywood Hotel alongside big brother Darrell and host Chris Myers.

And in an innovative new role for NASCAR’s No. 1 prerace show, veteran analyst Jeff Hammond takes his extensive experience as a former championship-winning crew chief to where the action is, in the garages and pit road. Both moves were announced today by FOX Sports Media Group President, Co-COO and Executive Producer, Eric Shanks.

“Michael is simply one of NASCAR’s most gregarious, genuine personalities, and we loved the dynamic between him and Darrell when we paired them up on occasion last season,” said Shanks. “Michael has also been featured in numerous television commercials over the last decade, which makes him familiar to a much broader audience. I expect a lot of ‘gotta see’ TV coming out of an all-Waltrip Hollywood Hotel next season.”

Shifting to Hammond, the plan is to use his extensive experience as a former NASCAR crew chief to work the pavement and mine the grease pits for the latest news and go wherever big stories develop all race-day long. Having a former crew chief serve in this role is a first for network television’s NASCAR coverage.

“We’re excited about Jeff’s new role,” said Shanks. “It’s a first for televised NASCAR coverage, and no one knows more about cars than Jeff does. Now he’ll be in a much better position to cover and humanize that side of the sport for viewers.”

Well, there you have it. Change happens just like this in sports TV. It's wrong to assume that Hammond is the odd man out here. His role in the Hollywood Hotel once the race started was limited. Now, he gets an opportunity to chase the kind of stories that the pit road reporters sometimes cannot follow-up.

You may remember that when the Waltrips were together earlier this season it got positive reviews. Instead of the huckster personalities that both can display at times, it was intstead two analysts comparing opinions on the racing action.

Some have suggested that this move is the beginning of a transition to ultimately moving the younger Waltrip into the TV booth when "Ole DW" decides to pack it in. It actually feels a lot more like a new TV executive realizing that the NASCAR on FOX package needs a little shake-up.

Love them or hate them, the Waltrip brothers will be the first things viewers see when each NASCAR on FOX Sprint Cup Series telecast opens in 2012. While DW might still be running off to the TV booth, don't forget that Michael will be live in the Hollywood Hotel and may well quickly redefine the role of infield analyst during the live race.

We welcome you opinions on this topic. To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. Thanks as always for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday TV/Media Notes

Here are some mid-week TV and media topics that are in the news:

ESPN on Tuesday afternoon released a carefully worded update on the TV ratings from Loudon, NH. Sunday's race went up against the NFL for the first time this season, but also featured ESPN's Nonstop commercials for the second half and RaceBuddy at the website.

Here is ESPN's media release on the ratings:

ESPN's live telecast of the Sylvania 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 25, earned a 3.1 household coverage rating, averaging 4,235,000 viewers, according to the Nielsen Company. The rating was up 19% from last year's New Hampshire race, which also aired on ESPN and earned a 2.6 rating. The telecast also saw double-digit growth in key audience demographics, including a 28% rise in the Male 18-34 demographic and a 20% rise in the Male 18-49 demographic. The audience also saw 33 percent of growth in the Persons 55+ demographic.

Here is the same topic as reported on the Sports Media Watch website:

Ratings and viewership jumped by double-digits for the second race of NASCAR’s Chase For the Cup, but the numbers were still below par.

Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Sylvania 300 from New Hampshire earned a 2.7 U.S. rating and 4.235 million viewers on ESPN, up 17% in ratings and 15% in viewership from last year (2.3, 3.677M), but down 16% in both measures compared to 2009 (3.2, 5.044M, ABC).

Despite the increase, this marks the second-lowest rated, second-least viewed edition of the race over the past ten seasons. As recently as 2008, the race drew a comparably hefty 3.8 rating and 6.098 million viewers on ABC.

While all of this information is technically correct, it certainly is a very good illustration that there are several ways to present the same NASCAR TV information.

As continuing proof of the New World Order inside NASCAR's marketing and media relations arm, the release of the 2012 Sprint Cup Series schedule on Wednesday will be a coordinated online event.

At noon ET the new schedule will be posted at the website. Then, NASCAR VP Steve O'Donnell will take Twitter comments and questions from fans and the media about the new schedule. For Twitter veterans, there is a #2012schedule hashtag being used for the conversation.

Speaking of Twitter, Ricky Craven signed-on this week and can be found at @RickyCravenESPN. Nice to have him in the social media pipeline.

Many fans this week have been asking about the changes to the NASCAR Now series on ESPN2. The network has a new emphasis on talk shows in the afternoon and has created a multi-hour block. That pushed NASCAR Now forward to the 3PM Eastern timeslot.

The network also has changed the late night schedule and that has eliminated the West Coast airing of the show. Despite ESPN downplaying the situation, this is the only "support series" for NASCAR on the TV network carrying the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races.

While the Sunday morning preview show and the Sunday night review show remain, it's a cruel blow for NASCAR fans who watched Allen Bestwick, Craven and others work so hard to make these weekday shows well worth watching. Needless to say, these changes do not bode well for NASCAR Now continuing to be on the schedule in 2012.

This week's double top-secret NASCAR Fan Council survey was focused on the new ESPN Nonstop commercial format. Fans were asked if it made a difference in the way they watched the race. Also on the agenda were questions about the use of social media and online applications while watching the live race telecast.

If you are not a viewer of SPEED Center, you may have missed the Sunday debut of Ray Evernham as SPEED's NASCAR studio analyst. This is a similar role to Craven on ESPN2. Evernham can be seen on the Sunday preview show at 10:30AM and the night time review show at 11PM ET.

It's a very strange time for a TV network to add an analyst, but Evernham brings a unique perspective to the sport and helps to establish another NASCAR perspective outside of the NASCAR Media Group produced RaceDay and Victory Lane shows.

ESPN has a doubleheader this weekend with Marty Reid calling the Saturday afternoon Nationwide Series race and Allen Bestwick handling the Sprint Cup Series action on Sunday from Dover. SPEED has the trucks on Saturday night from Kentucky Speedway on a weekend shared with the IndyCar Series.

Please feel free to post your comments on any of the topics mentioned above. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Flat Tracking In New Hampshire

The truck series race on Saturday showed us that it was going to be another case of a single groove racetrack that made it tough to pass. New Hampshire Motor Speedway lived up to that reputation on Sunday as the Sprint Cup Series raced on ESPN.

Nicole Briscoe led a pre-race show that consisted of a lot of content seen earlier in the week on ESPN. Features from the past were re-used on various topics to fill the hour. Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty now present a familiar infield TV duo.

Allen Bestwick called the race with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree in the TV booth. On pit road were Jamie Little, Dave Burns, Vince Welch and Dr. Jerry Punch. Tim Brewer was in the Tech Garage.

This race was a nose to tail affair that made pitstops and track position key to winning. There was little attrition among the top teams and ultimately gas mileage decided the race.

This was a typical ESPN presentation. The core of the live racing is covered by cameras that feature select pairs of cars. Sometimes, there is a single shot while the coverage talks about a designated driver. ESPN had a wonderful aerial shot, but it was used infrequently.

Positives were the nonstop commercial format, the quad-split for caution flag pistops and the effective use of split-screens during the racing. Negatives were conversation among announcers with no one calling the action. This race sounded very different on the radio.

This post is your opportunity to express your opinion about the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. To add your TV-related comments, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From New Hampshire (ESPN - 1PM ET)

The Fords are nowhere in sight at New Hampshire. The Roush guys are scratching their heads as the other manufacturers dominate. The weather is good, the track is slick and tempers are hot. What a perfect recipe for a good NASCAR race.

Nicole Briscoe will open the TV day with Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace alongside from the ESPN Infield Pit Studio. Briscoe has been solid while directing traffic on the air, but Wallace is struggling without a viable partner for conversation in this setting. Daugherty is a NASCAR cheerleader this season and nothing more.

Allen Bestwick will call the race with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree alongside. As fans saw with ESPN's Chicagoland coverage, Bestwick is sometimes limited in his ability to call the race by the pictures selected by ESPN. Perhaps today Bestwick will be able to look out the window instead of only at the TV screen.

On pit road are Jamie Little, Dave Burns, Vince Welch and Dr. Jerry Punch. In this New World Order of NASCAR where few cars experience mechanical troubles and passing is limited, the role of the pit reporter had been diminished significantly. It should be interesting to see if this tough and very flat track changes that for one race.

Tim Brewer is in the Tech Garage and is completely out of things to say. He almost seems resigned to his fate as he repeats the same basic points over and over again. Brewer has a lot more to offer, but the Tech Garage has lost its magic.

ESPN has a signature style of showing races called "hyper-tight." Once the start or a restart is over, the director immediately begins the process of tightening the camera views until they are tight shots of one or two cars. ESPN said this approach works better for HDTV viewers, unfortunately it misses most of the racing.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a pot that boils over about halfway through the race. Contact is going to happen, unless the field simply strings out and uses pit road for track position. In the Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday, only six trucks finished on the lead lap.

This post will serve to host your comments about the NASCAR on ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from New Hampshire. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Live Blogging Camping World Trucks From New Hampshire (SPEED - 2:30PM ET)

The Camping World Truck Series might be down, but it is definitely not out. The flat track at New Hamphshire is still a bit big for the series, but the trucks put on a good show for TV.

Kyle Busch was the class of the field, expect him to dominate. The regulars are still putting up a good fight with better stories in this series than the Nationwide tour. Lots of youngsters who fans will be seeing for many years will be on TV today.

Krista Voda starts the coverage with the pre-race show. The Mod race will just have ended, so pit road should be a bit busier than normal. The weather has also been iffy, with a rain delay in the Mod race.

Rick Allen will call the race with Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip. Ray Dunlap and Hermie Sadler are on pit road. The trucks are a familiar TV package with no surprises. Fans and TV viewers know exactly what they will get.

This post will serve to host your comments on the truck series race from the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. To add your TV-related opinions, just click on the comments button. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ray Evernham Returning To NASCAR TV

Ray Evernham has been a lot of things in his NASCAR career. Most recently, he was a NASCAR analyst for ESPN. Working in a variety of settings, Evernham brought his rather unique perspective to TV viewers.

ESPN used Evernham in the network studios as a panelist on the big Monday roundtable show. He also traveled to the tracks and worked from the infield pit studio. On one memorable occasion, he flew to Mexico with Dr. Jerry Punch and Rusty Wallace to call a Nationwide Series race.

His original move to ESPN in 2008 was complicated. He came with a lot of baggage. The domestic and professional issues that dogged him late in the team owner portion of his career threatened to surface again.

While ESPN Motorsports executives continually said all was fine, it was not. Evernham was getting a free pass on ESPN when it came to Gillett Evernham Motorsports (GEM) and a range of issues. They included his continued financial interest in the team and the ongoing Richard Petty Motorsports merger affecting drivers like Elliott Sadler and AJ Allmendinger.

Here is an excerpt from a September of 2008 TDP column about Evernham's first season with ESPN:

While Evernham might talk about his cars and his teams during the race highlights, there is a code of silence at ESPN where Evernham is concerned that is simply not fair to NASCAR fans. Like all the other owners, Evernham should be fair game and he is not.

Where ESPN is concerned, suits-and-ties and silence cannot hide reality. These NASCAR owners who double as ESPN announcers simply cannot walk down both sides of the street and expect their commentary to be received by the fans as unbiased.

"Ray Evernham Needs To Clear The Air" was a TDP column from January of 2009. We suggested that Evernham clear-up the remaining issues and address the outstanding questions before his second TV season began. Click here to read the entire post.

A short time later, Evernham did exactly that with then "lifestyle" writer Raygan Swan. Click here to read "Retired Evernham Looks Forward To What Lies Ahead."

Swan gave Evernham a controlled and friendly media outlet where he could put information out in a very public forum. has high traffic and is a site that fans can easily access and reference. The bottom line is, it worked.

In 2009 Evernham cemented his reputation as someone who could speak to a wide variety of NASCAR issues with authority on television. His opinions were mixed with the type of analytical crew chief perspective that few possess. His TV star was rising.

After three seasons with ESPN, Evernham surprised everyone by stepping away from NASCAR TV before the 2011 season. Instead, he signed on to consult with NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick on some of Hendrick's non-racing interests. At the time, some speculated that Evernham was actually being brought in to help struggling Dale Earnhardt Jr.

True to his word, Evernham kept away from the racing and instead enjoyed a low-key season that featured few national media interactions. That is about to change. Admittedly a man who gets bored easily, Evernham is returning to NASCAR TV.

TDP has learned that Evernham will shortly move into a role as the NASCAR analyst for the new SPEED Center program on SPEED network. As part of the network's recent changes, SPEED Center was created to provide a constant studio presence from Friday through Sunday during the live racing from around the country.

The SPEED Center concept features inserts from the studio into all types of SPEED programming and covers various types of racing. Adam Alexander has been the primary host, stepping aside for a rotating group of existing SPEED announcers during his time working for the NASCAR on TNT races.

Evernham would be put in a similar role to ESPN's Ricky Craven, who works in the NASCAR Now studios previewing and then reviewing the NASCAR racing action from the weekend. SPEED is a bit different, already producing a large amount of live programming from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tracks all season long.

This is going to be a good opportunity for Evernham to take a short drive over to the Charlotte, NC based SPEED studios and get back to work. His perspective is thoughtful and his opinions are more than just the standard positive reinforcement of the sport theme so popular on NASCAR TV these days.

Patti Wheeler is the driving force behind SPEED Center and the executive that got the ball rolling where Evernham is concerned. Wheeler is heading both the programming and production departments at the network, which essentially means she can create, schedule and produce the kinds of programs that meet the new SPEED agenda.

With the Chase already underway, it should be interesting to see if Evernham starts in his new role right away. There is a SPEED Center show scheduled for 11PM Friday night that will be previewing the Camping World Truck and Sprint Cup Series races from New Hampshire.

SPEED should be making an official announcement sometime on Friday. We will update this post about the specifics, but it is going to be nice to have Evernham back on TV talking about the sport once again. This time, he's traveling light.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day Two: "RaceBuddy" Reactions

It certainly sounded pretty good in the news release. Turner Sports and ESPN had made a deal. RaceBuddy was coming to the Chase. That is the Broadcast Slate 3000 pictured above that takes selected video feeds from the TV truck at the track and routes them to the video sources on the RaceBuddy page.

"Enhancing the viewing experience and improving the sport's digital and social presence for our millions of fans at the track, at home and everywhere in between is a goal we never lose sight of," said NASCAR's vice president of digital media Marc Jenkins.

"Turner Sports is delighted to partner with NASCAR and ESPN to expand the award-winning RaceBuddy on NASCAR.COM to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup," said senior vice president of Turner Sports Matthew Hong.

"Feedback from fans has been that they wish RaceBuddy were available for additional races outside the TNT portion of the season," Hong said. "We're proud to be able to bring them ChaseBuddy and extend the interactive experience of RaceBuddy to nine playoff races."

Hidden in the news releases from the various parties was this little nugget. "RaceBuddy will feature two mosaics with a mix of eight in-car and stationary cameras positioned around the track," said the Turner statement.

A key concern of ESPN when the network returned to the sport in 2007 was that an online product like RaceBuddy would take viewers away from the actual TV coverage. Racebuddy was created to simply be an addition to the telecasts, although it did have one camera dedicated to showing racing at all times. Now, that has changed.

While the in-car cameras and the "speed shot" from the stationary cameras were popular, it was the "battle cam" that gave RaceBuddy its heart and soul. That camera has now been completely eliminated from the Chase for the Championship version.

"Battle cam" was one of the "high cameras" positioned on the grandstand tower at the racetracks. It could see all the way around the track, but more importantly it was used to show something that current television coverage has long since cast aside. It constantly showed the best racing on the track regardless of position.

Follow the leader is the mantra of the current Sprint Cup Series TV partners. During the FOX portion of the season, the complaints pour in that the TV mix is simply the leader of the race and Junior. There is no RaceBuddy for these events. NASCAR on FOX absolutely wants nothing to do with online video.

When TNT rolls around, RaceBuddy eases the pain of viewers who again watch the leaders go around and around on TV. RaceBuddy allows users to watch the best racing on the track from the green to the checkered flag on the "battle cam." That will never be something shown on TV for more than a minute or two.

When RaceBuddy popped online last week for the first Chase race it offered fans multiple in-car cameras chosen by the Turner Sports folks. The two other slots were filled with cameras assigned to one specific view. ESPN had effectively shut the door to being able to use RaceBuddy to actually see cars racing around the track.

Fans who only had computer access of the rain-delayed Monday race either rode in-car with their favorite driver or watched the field drive through the other two camera views. While fans who attended the event told us there were some good battles in the middle of the pack, that was again eliminated in the ESPN production formula of tight camera shots of one or two cars.

It's not known who blinked, but RaceBuddy was effectively neutered in this deal. If your driver is selected for a featured in-car camera, then perhaps the value of this online application remains high. But without the "battle cam," it's just a watered-down version of the original concept.

For those asking, RaceBuddy will also not be providing an audio track of either the ESPN telecast or the radio coverage of the Chase races. Sound from team scanners can be heard when an individual camera is selected and the natural sound of the racing is heard on the other camera choices.

Sprint is paying the bill, so changing between mosaic views or individual cameras will get you a Sprint commercial playing on the screen. Perhaps, the 15 second versions will be inserted for the New Hampshire race instead of the longer 30 second versions that proved to be tough for race fans after several hours of use.

While RaceBuddy has finally cracked the online ice where ESPN is concerned, this Chasebuddy version packs a lot less punch by eliminating the most popular feature. Perhaps, this compromise deal meant that all parties had to give up something. It's pretty clear that "battle cam" is what Turner sacrificed.

We invite your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Post-Race: Sprint Cup Series On ESPN From Chicagoland Speedway

The weather cooperated but the racing did not. A dry track sent cars out again for what fans have seen too many times. An aero race where pit road, restarts and fuel mileage made the difference.

Allen Bestwick was alongside Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree in the TV booth. Jamie Little, Dave Burns, Vince Welch and Dr. Jerry Punch were on pit road.

The race started on time with no weather delays. There was a competition caution early on to check tire wear. Several times during the race a debris caution came out and TV was unable to show the debris on-camera.

ESPN resumed it's signature style of producing NASCAR races. Tight shots of small groups of cars dominated the telecast. The focus of the coverage was moving between individual battles on the track mixed with following the leader and using in-car cameras.

"Hyper-tight" is a term we coined last season for the style of coverage that ESPN uses for the Sprint Cup Series races. Time and time again, the camera zooms to the tightest possible shot of two cars racing for position. This eliminates any perspective of where on the track the cars are racing or who else is racing around them.

Bestwick is put in the position of talking about the cars the director and producer have chosen to put on the TV screen as opposed to calling the race by looking out the window of the TV booth. It has affected his ability to add excitement to the telecasts.

Petree was once again more outspoken than Jarrett, who has seemed to embrace the politically correct NASCAR environment. Petree is key at adding strategy comments to the telecasts and he is not afraid to call a team out for making a bad decision.

Bestwick has taken to calling these type of events "strategy races." He is politely saying there is very little racing involved and most of the decision making is done on pit road and by the crew chief. Fuel mileage is dominating the racing.

ESPN Nonstop was used in the second half of the race. It lets the race video continue on the screen. Fans kept suggesting that more commercials had been added, but that is not the case. Same amount as usual in these telecasts.

Ultimately, the race came down to fuel mileage. ESPN let Stewart cross the line but was unprepared for the rest of the cars running out of fuel on the track. Most of the top finishers were missed and the sequence on TV was just chaotic. Once again, pit reporters were talking to drivers about a finish TV viewers never saw.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Chicagoland. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series Race From Chicagoland (ESPN - 12PM ET)

The weather is clearing and the jet dryers are working. Hopefully, the track will dry in plenty of time for the scheduled race start shortly after noon ET Monday.

There is no pre-race show for rain delayed races. Allen Bestwick will call the race with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Jamie Little, Vince Welch, Dave Burns and Dr. Jerry Punch will cover pit road.

This is a big race as 1.5 mile tracks dominate the Chase. There should be a competition caution around lap 30 to check tire wear on the green track. Even though the track is dry, the grass at the track will still be soaking wet.

These Monday races are often better TV presentations than the pre-planned and over-produced Sunday shows. The focus is simply on the racing as most of the bells and whistles are gone. The announcers are tired and the hype is left at the hotel.

This race will feature ESPN Nonstop, the side-by-side commercial format, for the second half of the event. The telecast will also be available online for the first time. Right now it's Time Warner, Bright House and Verizon FiOs users who also have ESPN that are able to use the Watch ESPN app for coverage.

Ultimately, the story of this race is going to be the ability to pass on this aero-style track. If the racing is compelling, the Chase will get another good review as it moves forward. If the lack of passing means pit road might make the difference, expect a reaction from the media and fans.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Chicagoland Speedway. To add your opinion on the TV coverage, just click on the comments button below.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Chicagoland (ESPN - 1PM ET)

The switch in race dates for Chicagoland Speedway chased away the hot temps, but brought the cold and rain of mid-September. It has been raining at the track since the early morning and right now all activity is on hold.

If weather permits, NASCAR goes through the motions of the opening ceremonies without pushing the cars out of the garage and onto the grid. Once the flyover is done, NASCAR officially puts the race on hold if the track is still wet.

The big Chicagoland Speedway takes 90 minutes to dry if the sun is out and around 2 hours if the weather continues to be overcast and cold. Right now, reporters from the track are saying it will be a long weather hold.

ESPN has Nicole Briscoe anchoring from the Infield Pit Studio. The network pretty much used most of the edited features during the last rain delay in Atlanta. Briscoe has Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty alongside. It will be interesting to see if Wallace addresses the rumor that his current 5 Hour Energy sponsor is leaving for the Cup Series with Clint Bowyer and MWR.

Allen Bestwick is always optimistic and he has Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree alongside in the TV booth. During Saturday's Nationwide Series race, neither Petree or Jarrett lifted a finger to help announcer Marty Reid. Jarrett was dry as toast and Petree spoke in general terms, clearly focused on the Cup race.

It should be interesting to see if Jarrett and Petree rise to the occasion of this first Chase race and help Bestwick make it a memorable telecast. This is the first time for Bestwick in this position and it is very clear he wants to make his mark.

ESPN is clear on the schedule today until 8PM, when live Major League Baseball is scheduled. The NASCAR TV contract requires live TV coverage from the green to checkered flag, but not during rain delays. ESPN could be free to leave and then return if the action is delayed until the track lights go on.

We will continue to update the weather delays on this post and in the comments section. We invite your opinions on the TV coverage today, just click the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

NASCAR TV Ready For NFL Showdown

Sunday will be the first time since the new NASCAR TV contract began in 2007 that a coordinated effort between multiple media partners has the sport ready to compete with the NFL.

Let's review some of the changes involved in putting NASCAR in this position: finally got the go ahead to offer a full-scale free RaceBuddy application for the Chase races. Fans can now hit the Internet for eight additional video sources, team scanners from the in-car cameras and real time scoring. Turner Sports Interactive is providing this service.

ESPN will be able to provide 9 of the 10 Chase races on the Watch ESPN app. This means existing customers will be able to view the races and the NASCAR Now program on laptops, iPads and smart phones. Click here for a complete list of all cable providers offering the service.

NASCAR Nonstop is the term ESPN coined for the new side-by-side commercial format that the network will be using during the Chase. In the second half of all the Chase races, ESPN will switch to the view you see above during commercial breaks. The race and scoring will continue while the commercial rolls. ESPN will immediately return to the race if there is an incident on the track.

SPEED's popular one-hour Victory Lane show will now start as soon as ESPN or ABC signs-off after a Chase race. The program will have a flexible starting time and will try to get the existing TV audience to switch over to SPEED when the live race telecast is done. John Roberts, Kyle Petty and Kenny Wallace talk with the winning driver, crew chief and owner. Bob Dillner interviews other drivers and personalities in this extended post-race format.

ESPN will use the resources at the track and back in the Bristol, CT studios to air a one hour NASCAR Now wrap-up show after each Chase race. The program from Chicagoland this weekend airs at 11:30PM ET on ESPN2. This lets the network use those who participated in race telecasts for observations. The show will originate from the ESPN studios with various hosts.

This season NASCAR TV veteran Allen Bestwick will call all ten Chase races. ESPN tried Dr. Jerry Punch and Marty Reid in this position, but Bestwick is a true NASCAR media personality with a base of knowledge about the sport that is second to none. His work ethic is well-known and it will be the first time a strong on-air personality will lead the TV telecasts.

The Sprint Cup Mobile app continues to provide both information and live video to Sprint users. The app contains multiple links to sources that provide updated information on the series and the Chase. Multiple channels of live audio are also provided during the races, including the NASCAR officials channel.

Click here for the official Sprint Cup Series Facebook page. It will probably top 2 million subscribers who "liked" it by Sunday. This page has come a long way and now pumps out tons of great links, pictures and videos. It is a must to follow for the Chase with items that will not be seen on other websites.

Twitter is something that does not really make sense until you use it. It's free, easy to operate and works on a smart phone, iPad or almost any kind of online device. As a hardcore race fan, it is simply the best tool for updated NASCAR information ever invented. It allows any user to create a customized stream of information from series, teams, drivers, racetracks, sponsors or media organizations. Fans can interact directly with Sprint Cup Series drivers on Twitter and see exclusive content. Regardless of what your skeptical friend might say, it's not about who got a haircut and where someone ate lunch.

Click here to view the official NASCAR Twitter page. Click here for the The Daly Planet page. Click here for the Chicagoland Speedway page. This is a little taste of what is on Twitter. I would strongly suggest joining and trying it out.

There is no doubt that this first Sunday of NASCAR going head-to-head with the 1PM and 4:30PM NFL games is going to leave a mark. But now, instead of having only one TV source for live information, fans are going to be surrounded by more types of online and social media applications loaded with content.

It's great to finally see cooler heads prevail and priorities get sorted out for NASCAR's version of the playoffs. It's going to be quite different this season when fans can have the local NFL game on one TV screen but enjoy the option of NASCAR on a variety of devices from iPads to smart phones.

How are you going to configure your Chase media center? Have these additional options made it easier for you to keep NASCAR active in NFL season? Happy to have your opinion on this subject, it's a brand new playing field this time around.

To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

Live Blogging Nationwide Series From Chicagoland (ESPN2 - 3PM ET)

The Nationwide Series again has the smell of a Cup-dominated Saturday. The fast Chicagoland Speedway has lent itself to the more experienced drivers in the past.

Rusty Wallace will be on the pre-race show with host Nicole Briscoe and Brad Daugherty. Dave Moody from Sirius Speedway reported that Wallace's current NNS sponsor, 5 Hour Energy, is leaving next season and moving to the Cup Series with Michael Waltrip Racing and driver Clint Bowyer. That topic should be interesting.

Marty Reid, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree will call the race. There are a handful of NNS regulars still trying hard for the driver's championship. Unfortunately, ESPN is star-struck with the Cup drivers and once again they will be given center stage on TV.

The racing is typical aero track style, with little passing and lots of importance on pit stops under both green and caution flags. TV has no choice but to follow the groups of cars close to each other as passing has been at a premium. Restarts yield the excitement in the race and should once again tell the tale of the race.

It's tough to get excited for this coverage as ESPN squeezes the NNS into a hole between college football games. The network has covered nothing from Chicagoland today, including qualifying for both the NNS and Cup Series.

One good story has emerged, as talented young driver Brian Scott has the pole for the event. This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN2 coverage of the NNS race from Chicagoland Speedway. Just click the comments button below.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Live Blogging Camping World Trucks From Chicagoland (SPEED - 7:30PM ET)

That is driver Steve Arpin, who is on tonight's pole for the Camping World Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway. It looks to be a pretty racy bunch tonight. There are some current Cup drivers, a handful of one-timers and a group of regulars chasing the points. That's been a good combo for this series.

Krista Voda kicks things off at 7:30PM with The Set-up pre-race show. Rick Allen will call the race with Phil Parsons and Micheal Waltrip. Hermie Sadler and Ray Dunlap are the pit reporters.

This track is fast, but not the type of track for which the truck series was intended. Beating and banging here just results in less aero downforce and ultimately lack of a shot to win. Passing is tough and restarts might hold the key to the race.

TV looks to be the familiar package from SPEED. The focus is on the race, nothing from the TV side is designed to take over the telecast and it really works. Look for lots of split-screens tonight to follow two groups racing or green flag pitstops.

This post will serve to host your comments on the Camping World Trucks in Chicago. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sunday TV Showdown Looming

It's that time of the year again for NASCAR. Sunday afternoon, the Sprint Cup Series will go head-to-head with the NFL for TV ratings. It's a moment of choice for fans of both sports.

While the action from the Saturday night race in Richmond was certainly an attention-getter, the NFL also had a memorable opening weekend. This is the time of the season when ESPN is alone in presenting the Sprint Cup Series races.

It's a tad ironic that ESPN just unveiled a massive new NFL TV package. It has already resulted in new programming on multiple ESPN networks and substantial expansion of existing series. ESPN and the NFL have cemented a relationship that will exist for a very long time.

This was also the week that ESPN2's NASCAR Now, the only NASCAR-themed program on any ESPN network, was relegated to the 3PM Eastern timeslot. Even the later airing for West Coast viewers was cancelled. Since 2007 this series has aired on weekdays at 5PM ET.

Last year we had this discussion and found many NASCAR fans to be upset. While the Chase for the Championship format was designed to counter NFL interest, it was not the Chase fans disliked. Instead, it was the way ESPN covered the final ten races of the Sprint Cup Series season.

Fans of drivers outside of the Chase found no TV coverage of those teams, unless the car was leading the race. Literally from the time the green flag fell there would be four hours without a full field recap, any reference to non-Chase teams or even updates on how non-Chase drivers got to where they were running on the track.

Often, drivers would seemingly appear from nowhere to win the races. It was a fundamental disconnect between a TV network covering a Chase and fans who were watching a race. Nothing could shake ESPN from focusing on the top Chasers for the entire telecast.

One basic truth about the NASCAR fan base was seemingly missed by the ESPN production team. Fans do not change driver favorites when the Chase starts. That group of fans wearing Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle or Mark Martin gear wants to be provided the same amount of information about those teams as they have been all season.

The argument that the Chase drivers deserve the lion's share of the TV coverage has been proven wrong by the disastrous TV ratings and negative fan response over the last four years. Time and time again, it's been suggested that ESPN take the Chase races and simply produce them as events, letting the scoring ticker and the pit reporters handle the Chase point updates.

One new wrinkle brought to the table by ESPN this season is the side-by-side commercial format. Branded as NASCAR Nonstop, the new format will be used for the second half of each Chase race. The first half of each race will feature full-screen commercials as usual.

This is at least a bow to one of the biggest problems TV has with the sport. In order to pay for the races, the Sprint Cup Series networks have to hammer commercial breaks into live events without being able to stop the action. NASCAR Nonstop is at least a first step that will hopefully convince ESPN to use this format full time for 2012.

The other big advantage for ESPN is the presence of Allen Bestwick. Love him or hate him, Bestwick is superb at directing traffic on the air and working to keep fans updated on the information about the race. This will be his first time trying to walk the tricky line of the race vs. the Chase.

It really helps to have someone in the lap-by-lap announcer position who has direct experience in the role. That is something Dr. Jerry Punch and Marty Reid did not. It was a bold move by ESPN just days before the network's Sprint Cup Series coverage began to move Bestwick into the TV booth. We will see on Sunday if it pays off.

What is your mindset as you try to make the decision about Sunday TV viewing? Putting aside the usual complaints about the Chase, Brian France and Junior how about sharing with us what you will be watching on Sunday and why.

To add your opinion on this topic, just click the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Last Minute Deal Brings NASCAR Content Online

Since 2007 we have been describing the stand-off between Turner Sports, the online rights holder for NASCAR, and two of the sport's key media partners, ESPN and FOX.

Veteran reporter Dustin Long of Landmark Newspapers is reporting that Turner and ESPN have made a last minute deal to settle most of those differences. Basically, the agreement involves some good old fashioned horse trading. Click here to read Long's complete story.

ESPN has an online service called Watch ESPN. This allows existing cable customers of Time Warner, Bright House and Verizon FiOS access to the ESPN networks online. It gives devices like laptops, iPads and smart phones streaming of all things ESPN.

What the Watch ESPN app did not have was NASCAR. Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series and the daily NASCAR Now program were all blacked-out because Turner held the online rights. Those shows could be watched on TV, but not online.

Meanwhile, Turner has been working hard to expand the RaceBuddy franchise as a part of the online package of goodies that the website can offer. This year RaceBuddy was available for the six TNT Sprint Cup Series races, all of the truck series races and several non-points events carried by SPEED.

Since 2007 ESPN has been enforcing the TV exclusivity that prohibits Turner from using any live racetrack footage online. ESPN paid a pretty penny for the final 17 Sprint Cup Series races and the door has been tightly shut to allowing any of that content destined for TV to be used for RaceBuddy.

As Long reported, in the agreement scheduled to be announced Wednesday, both Turner and ESPN have made moves that ultimately benefit their own agendas. NASCAR fans just happen to benefit as well.

Turner allows ESPN to stream Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Now show on the Watch ESPN service. ESPN allows Turner to use live race video and audio in a Sprint Cup Series version of RaceBuddy. Ultimately, both sides walk away happy.

NASCAR fans might need a second to sort all this out. Those with existing Watch ESPN service will now get to see that NASCAR content online. Folks who have Comcast or other major cable companies who do not offer Watch ESPN are still out of luck. The Charlotte race is on ABC and is not in this package, just the other nine races.

Meanwhile anyone with online access can get the RaceBuddy application through the website. The new version will have two mosaic (mix) video boxes with four windows each for a total of eight video sources. Whatever in-car cameras are chosen will also have the team scanner.

This version of RaceBuddy will have a live leaderboard, social media chatting and Raceview's position tracker. It will be similar to the layout used for the TNT races this year. RaceBuddy is a great way to see live video when the race is in commercial break and watch different coverage angles for more track views.

What RaceBuddy does not provide is actual streaming of the finished race program that ESPN viewers will be seeing. None of the eight video sources is the actual "race." This protects ESPN by forcing those without the Watch ESPN service back to the TV set.

In the end, fans do win because more access is great. RaceBuddy is a solid online race companion and Watch ESPN will allow folks nationwide to catch the live video on any kind of handheld device or tablet. Hopefully, positive feedback from both these developments will lead to some additional online content sharing and development between these two parties in the future.

While the timing of this deal may seem strange, it's really not. NASCAR, ESPN and Turner are all standing on the beach and seeing the same thing. There is a huge wave approaching and it is timed to hit on Sunday afternoon. The NFL is back and NASCAR is poised to take a huge hit in the TV ratings.

One glance at NFL Sunday Ticket, NFL Red Zone, NFL Mobile and the NFL Network coming straight at NASCAR's ten little races is pretty good motivation to make something happen. The NFL seems poised for its strongest TV ratings in history.

It's been a long road to these changes. Thanks to all the TDP readers who have consistently made their voices heard on these issues. While there are some additional online and production issues to solve, this is a nice present for a tired fan base watching NASCAR since February.

If any additional details are made public, this post will be updated on Wednesday throughout the day.

We invite your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Repost: Puzzling TV Changes At SPEED

Update: Monday night brought lots of email and social media messages about the changes to the RaceHub program on SPEED. This is a repost of the story describing those changes from last week.

A trio of announcements from SPEED has made for some interesting reading and some head scratching moments. Let's take the items one at a time.

The young lady pictured above, Marianela Pereyra, is joining Trackside as a reporter for the next four programs. As we know, SPEED has been working to revamp the series and began by eliminating Larry McReynolds from the program this season.

Trackside has also been searching for a new host since Steve Byrnes moved into the network's RaceHub studios to host that series. It appears for the moment that Rutledge Wood has been given the role, at least for the next several programs.

Wood will host Kyle Petty and Jeff Hammond on the show this weekend from Atlanta with Joey Logano and David Ragan as guests. Trackside's new reporter goes simply by Marianela and is a TV veteran of music, poker and sports programs.

It should be interesting to see what this new format has in store for viewers and what role Marianela will be filling working among NASCAR fans in a program taped live outside. More fan interaction with the guests, perhaps?

We have been asking SPEED to offer the Victory Lane show after Saturday night Sprint Cup Series races for years. Now, the network has taken that idea even one step further. Victory Lane starting at Richmond will now air immediately after ESPN goes off the air with Sprint Cup Series post-race coverage.

That means fans can literally switch over to SPEED for an extended post-race show in the Victory Lane format. This program offers John Roberts, Kyle Petty and Kenny Wallace on a small set right in the actual Victory Lane area of the track. The idea is to capture the moments and also interview the winning driver, crew chief and owner. Bob Dillner reports for the show and highlights are also included.

This is a wonderful change for both the Saturday and Sunday races. The network deserves credit for moving to this flexible air time format to capitalize on the Sprint Cup Series TV audience that watched the live race.

Victory Lane will also keep it's Monday morning re-air. WindTunnel with Dave Despain will move to 8PM on Sundays to fill that now vacant timeslot.

The final news item is the head scratcher. It has already resulted in some rather upset NASCAR fans immediately after the announcement was made. SPEED's Monday through Thursday RaceHub show is being moved from 7PM to 6PM Eastern Time beginning September 12.

This move puts RaceHub squarely up against local TV station and broadcast TV network newscasts from Florida to Maine. The sacred 6PM hour of news is an East Coast institution. Even more interesting is the fact that for September, SPEED is airing two repeat episodes of the Pass Time drag racing game show in the 7PM hour. In September, the show continues to re-air at 11PM Pacific Time.

We asked for an explanation of the RaceHub move, but did not get a response from SPEED.

As always, we want your comments on these topics. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Post-Race: Sprint Cup Series From Richmond On ABC

It was a wild night in Richmond. From start to finish, the stories were almost unbelievable at times. It was up to the NASCAR on ESPN team to cover them for ABC.

Nicole Briscoe hosted a pre-race show that did not air in areas where the ABC local stations chose news or local programming. Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace manned the Infield Pit Studio with Briscoe. The pre-race show was themed around the Chase.

Richmond International Raceway did a great job of putting together a 9/11 tribute. Unfortunately, things did not turn out as planned once the race started. An accident during the tribute on laps 9-11 made things a bit awkward.

Allen Bestwick led Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree through a race telecast that featured an incredible number of cautions and incidents in the early going. At times, it seemed that the TV team was overwhelmed by just how many top teams were involved.

Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch, Dave Burns and Vince Welch were on pit road. The information was flowing fast and furious, but often it was not perhaps what was being reported by other media members or teams via social media. Once again, ESPN was caught in a bit of an information gap.

The coverage for the last several years has emphasized the tight shots of two cars at a time as they race for position. This race, even on a short track, featured the same. Gone were the wideshots and the aerial views. The perspective on each segment of racing being shown was quickly lost.

ABC kept in all the scoring tickers as if it was an ESPN telecast. At times, there were four lines of graphics on the screen. It was interesting to see just how much of a focus on other sports the network kept during the race telecast.

The closing lap featured the winner, but again the director chose to cut away to a shot of the winning driver's wife. None of the other races to the flag were covered. In this event, there were many stories other than the winner. It was Chase time.

Once the race was over and went to commercial, many ABC stations across the country chose to leave and begin their local news telecast. My home station in West Palm Beach, FL was one of them. As if nothing happened, the local news just began.

This meant that fans who had watched the telecast for four hours were denied any post-race coverage of the final race to set the Chase. It was a huge mistake. ESPN does not control the ABC local stations and tonight was a great example of that issue. It might be time to move the night races over to cable for 2012.

The RIR team offered a one-hour version of NASCAR Now at midnight ET. That helped to ease the pain for those of us who saw none of the live post-race show.

What did you think of the ESPN on ABC coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Richmond, VA?

To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Richmond (ABC - 7PM ET)

NASCAR is back on broadcast TV as the race from Richmond is carried on ABC. This is going to be a night that will start off with many 9/11 tributes and then hopefully lead into some good racing. NASCAR needs a good primetime showing right now.

Nicole Briscoe starts the telecast with Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty from the Infield Pit Studio. The theme of tonight is the Chase and this is going to give us a hint of how ESPN will handle the topic after four seasons of struggle.

Allen Bestwick will call the race, which will start at 7:47PM. Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree will be in the broadcast booth. Petree continues to speak his mind while Jarrett is still working on balancing his perception of being polite on the air with the reality of needing to provide sometimes critical comments on the action.

Dr. Jerry Punch, Jamie Little, Vince Welch and Dave Burns will be the pit road reporters. Tim Brewer will be in the Tech Garage. Richmond is known for hot tempers and hot brakes. Expect both stories to be told tonight.

This is clearly the first "race within a race" challenge for ESPN of the season. There are two very distinct storylines that will begin once the green flag flies. The challenge for TV is to keep track of the race and keep track of who is making the Chase at the same time. It has not been easy.

Tonight will also feature some one-time paint schemes, including the one pictured above on the Kyle Busch car. It should lend some continued feeling of patriotism as the racing action slowly simmers to a boil.

Look for ESPN to keep the cameras wide to give fans perspective on the actual racing action or fall victim once again to the temptation of zooming in to one or two cars at a time. It's been hit or miss this season. If the video framing is super-tight, that will indeed be a shame.

NASCAR is about to take a huge kick in the teeth from the NFL beginning next weekend. It is going to be very important tonight for ESPN to develop and follow-up on the emerging stories from the race tonight. Getting viewers to decide to follow NASCAR next week is the challenge for tonight.

We invite your comments on the ABC coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Richmond. To add your TV-related comments, just click on the comments button below.

9/11 Theme Prominent In Richmond Race

Nothing is tougher than trying to hold a professional sporting event during a time when the attention of the nation is pointed in another direction. Saturday night in Richmond, NASCAR will try to mix a key race with the remembrance of a national tragedy.

ABC will be the place for the Sprint Cup Series telecast from the Richmond International Raceway (RIR). NASCAR, RIR and ABC have combined to bring viewers a variety of tributes throughout the telecast.

"NASCAR takes great pride in the patriotism that the sport showcases every race weekend and the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is a special opportunity for NASCAR to unite and recognize those we lost and honor those who responded with courage," said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France.

It will be Nicole Briscoe hosting the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show. RIR and the TV team will be working to integrate specific elements into the telecast throughout the race.

Members of the Wounded Warriors organization will be leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance before watching the race as NASCAR special guests. Retired New York City police officer Daniel Rodriguez, a popular performer at key NASCAR races, will be singing "God Bless America." Finally, the U.S. Army Infantry Division Band will be performing the National Anthem.

ABC will air a special feature during the telecast titled "I Remember" that includes stars of the sport reflecting on 9/11 and their memories 10 years later. Once the race is underway, the TV announcers will go silent for laps 9 through 11 as the fans at the track wave American flags.

Many of the teams racing on Saturday night have special 9/11 anniversary tribute cars, while others have tribute accents in the sponsor paint schemes. Jimmie Johnson and other drivers and NASCAR personalities will appear throughout the race in public service announcements promoting volunteerism and charitable causes.

Sprint is also in the mix. At the "Sprint Experience" in the RIR midway, a video will begin running at 9:11AM that will feature images of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the memorial in Shanksville, PA. Throughout the video all of the approximate 3,000 names of those who passed away that day will be displayed. The video will last approximately 30 minutes.

This is all an effort to make sure that fans at home and at the track feel there is the proper level of respect for this weekend. It's a tribute that will be handed off to the NFL networks on Sunday. They will be offering the same type of patriotic themes.

The NFL will offer three separate tributes prior to the 1:00, 4:00, and 8:00 games, respectively. Each tribute will open with a speech by Academy Award-winning actor Robert De Niro, followed by a minute-long moment of silence with a bugler playing “Taps” at one of three sites. From there, the show will dissolve to shots from all the stadiums where play is about to begin. An American flag will cover all the fields and will be held in place by the players as the National Anthem is sung.

It looks like NASCAR's Saturday efforts fit right in. ESPN is good at this type of coordination. Look for the elements described above in the RIR race telecast.

We invite your opinion on this topic. To add your comment, just click on the comment button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Live Blogging Nationwide Series From Richmond (ESPN2 - 7PM ET)

It's been a very long day for the NASCAR on ESPN team. The conclusion is the Nationwide Series race with Marty Reid on the call.

Nicole Briscoe will open the pre-race with Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty from the Infield Pit Studio. Reid will be joined for the race by Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree, who have been on the air since noon. On pit road are Jamie Little, Vince Welch, Dave Burns and Dr. Jerry Punch. Tim Brewer is in the Tech Garage.

RIR is a tight little track where the action happens fast and the racing is rough. Trying to follow the script of zooming in tight has failed ESPN time and time again in producing this telecast. We shall see if they try the same thing tonight.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN2 production of the Nationwide Series race from Richmond. To add your TV-related comments, just click on the comments button below.

The Boys Are Back In Town

Stepping aside, as almost everything else sports-related does, while the mighty NFL opens the season. Back Friday night to live blog the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at 7PM from the Richmond International Raceway on ESPN2. See you then.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

ESPN Downgrades "NASCAR Now" Stock

ESPN controls all the stock options for the weekday Sports Nation studio show that currently is the rage among male teens. Michelle Beadle does her best Jenny McCarthy impersonation channeling MTV's cult classic Singled Out in her interaction with co-host Colin Cowherd.

Sports Nation has all the attributes ESPN loves. It is produced at ESPN, the footage is controlled by ESPN and the series can be used to showcase ESPN's own programming.

Between the forced humor, Beadle's high heels and the endless mix of random sports videos it almost defies description. In short, it's a TV show about nothing. Where have we heard that before?

Come September, ESPN will be making a move with the series. With Beadle's stock rising and the teen-age boys howling, Sports Nation will move to 5PM on ESPN2 every weekday. It's ESPN's version of the after school special.

Unfortunately, there is one little problem. That timeslot has been occupied from February through November by the NASCAR Now program for years.

Produced to support one of ESPN's major sports series, NASCAR Now offers an hour on Mondays and thirty minute versions Tuesday through Friday. There is also a preview show before every Sprint Cup Series race for the ten months of the season.

Apparently, all of that simply does not matter right now. What's hot is hot and NASCAR Now's stock is being downgraded. The show will move to a 3PM Eastern timeslot starting in September. The re-air will be after midnight Eastern Time.

This is a tough blow for NASCAR. ESPN is NASCAR's biggest TV partner and the daily show was a integral part of the new TV contract that started in 2007 and runs through the end of 2014.

Essentially, what ESPN is saying with this move is that fans should record the show and watch it when they arrive home from work. We call that DVR theater. It's basically akin to falling off the TV radar.

The real problem for NASCAR Now is 750 miles away from Bristol, CT and tucked inside a TV studio in Charlotte, NC. SPEED has a Monday through Thursday one-hour show called RaceHub that covers the exact same material as NASCAR Now and is located in NASCAR's backyard.

While ESPN may try to spin this topic as moving a show with solid ratings into a better timeslot, the damage is done. There was a very loyal group of fans that watched NASCAR Now and interacted with the hosts and analysts online.

This is also the time of the year when NASCAR Now starts getting batted around. This week it's Little League baseball and then comes US Open tennis coverage. Jostling the show around in the very heart of the racing season got so bad last year that fans started calling it NASCAR Not Now.

With the 5PM shows often pre-empted, last season fans tried to record the only scheduled airing set for early morning East Coast time. Over and over again, NASCAR Now never popped-up on the DVR. By the time October rolled around, TDP readers suggested ESPN stood for Ever Seeking to Pre-empt NASCAR.

Even though it had a rocky start, hats off to those who persevered with this series and made it into a very viable NASCAR news program. Strong field reporters are now mixed with solid studio hosts and a wonderful variety of analysts.

Five years after ESPN returned to NASCAR, it's tough to swallow the fact that the network's daily news program is being pushed to a meaningless timeslot in the very heart of a critical season for the sport.

On the other hand, ESPN's relentless pursuit of the late teen demographic has finally paid dividends with a show centered around social media, sports videos and a cute girl with attitude. At least NASCAR now knows where that demographic is hiding.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.

Allen Bestwick: The Quiet Man

In John Ford's 1952 film called "The Quiet Man," American boxer Sean Thornton played by John Wayne arrives in Ireland seeking a second chance. After an incident in the boxing ring, he is on a quest to regain a normal life.

Eventually, Thornton has to stand up for himself and show that his pride is intact despite the grim reality of his past. In the climactic fight scene, even his archenemy in town learns to respect Thornton and a friendship is born.

As the 2004 NASCAR season opened, Allen Bestwick was on top of the world. He had worked his way up from an MRN radio announcer into the TV side of the business. He was the lap-by-lap announcer for the races on NBC, TBS and TNT.

Since 1996, Bestwick had also been hosting a Monday night TV program first on SpeedVision and then on SPEED Channel. Changing names with sponsors, it had begun as Inside Winston Cup Racing and then incorporated Nextel and Sprint as the years went by.

The Monday show was a cult classic when it featured Michael Waltrip, Kenny Schrader and Johnny Benson as the "expert panel." With Bestwick playing the straight man as the frustrated host trying to maintain order, the program put Sprint Cup Series drivers into the TV spotlight as never before and launched a TV career for Waltrip that continues to this day.

In September of 2004, Bestwick was playing in a charity ice hockey game near his home in Rhode Island when he broke his leg. The injury and subsequent surgery put him on the shelf for only two races. NBC moved infield host Bill Weber into Bestwick's position.

Shortly after returning to TV, Bestwick was informed by then president of NBC Sports Ken Schanzer that he would be replaced by Weber upstairs in the TV booth for the 2005 season. Bestwick was offered the job of hosting the pre-race show from the infield.

In the blink of an eye, Bestwick's run as the face of Sprint Cup Series racing on NBC was over.

Later in 2005, viewers of the Monday show on SPEED saw a shaken group of panelists offer an off-balance and disjointed effort. Something was clearly wrong. In fact, former SPEED executive Chris Long had summarily fired Bestwick and Benson before the program. After almost a decade of work there were to be no goodbyes. It was an awkward and awful ending.

When ESPN returned to NASCAR in 2007 the network chose to promote three personalities in the national media. ESPN veteran Dr. Jerry Punch would step into the lead announcer role. He would be paired with new arrival Rusty Wallace who would be the network's lead analyst.

The third face was one the network said was familiar to sports fans nationwide. He would host the pre-race show, remain in the infield to offer comments during the telecast and then host the post-race show. His name was Brent Musburger.

Listed last on the press release were the names of the pit reporters. Behind Jamie Little, Dave Burns and Mike Massaro was the name Allen Bestwick. Three years after his hockey injury, losing his original NBC job and having his beloved series on SPEED cancelled, Bestwick was starting over.

Only four months into the first season, ESPN's NASCAR Now studio show was sinking fast. One host had already been fired and the tension between the teams and ESPN over reporting practices was building. Host Erik Kuselias and analyst Tim Cowlishaw were hype artists treating NASCAR as nothing more than fodder for redneck jokes.

On the last Wednesday in May frustrated NASCAR fans got a big surprise. The face hosting the show was none other than Allen Bestwick. Many employees at ESPN had never met a "real NASCAR guy." With only one program, Bestwick set the tone that got the show back on track both inside ESPN and with the personalities in the sport.

Click here for a TDP post on that day. Veteran reporters Marty Smith and Terry Blount were both doing liveshots via satellite and could not hide their smiles with Bestwick hosting the program.

After the show, one fan (Jules H.) offered this comment. "When I heard AB’s voice I stated jumping around the room like a kid on Christmas morning!"

Since that time, Bestwick has gone on to grow his relationship with NASCAR Now into becoming a vital part of that franchise. His "Monday roundtable" show echoed the format of his former SPEED series with various drivers, crew chiefs and reporters chiming in over the course of an hour.

Although ESPN at first changed the Monday panelists every week, Bestwick has now managed to bring back two NASCAR veterans as semi-regulars for the Monday show. You may remember them from a while back. Their names are Schrader and Benson.

It didn't take long for NASCAR fans to register their frustration with Musburger. Even when he moved into the new Infield Pit Studio, it was clear Musburger was a stick-and-ball fish out of water. ESPN tried several new faces before settling on in-house anchor Suzy Kolber as host. After one season, she was gone.

"Allen Bestwick Emerges From The Shadows" was the title of a February 2008 post at TDP. Click here to read it. After running out of options, ESPN had finally moved Bestwick from pit road to the infield host position for good.

Immediately, Bestwick tabbed Brad Daugherty as the "Voice of the fans" to help explain Daugherty's awkward role on the telecasts. Bestwick also helped Rusty Wallace with TV lessons in when to talk and when not to talk. That was an early struggle for Wallace as a TV novice.

As Dr. Jerry Punch faded in the booth time and time again, it became clear that ESPN needed to return the good doctor to pit road and bring in someone with a better play-by-play style of presentation. ESPN looked around and Vice President of Motorsports Rich Feinberg made a decision. It would be IndyCar and NHRA veteran Marty Reid taking over that role beginning in 2010.

Now in his second season, it's become clear that Reid's lack of a NASCAR history has handicapped him in the TV booth. After five months of Reid working the Nationwide Series telecasts this year, Feinberg finally made a move. Just a week before ESPN starts its fifth season of Sprint Cup Series races, a new face would head the team.

After restarting his TV career in 2007 as a Nationwide Series pit road reporter, Bestwick finally gets the chance to return to the spotlight. While Reid will continue on the Nationwide telecasts, Bestick will call the Sprint Cup Series races for ESPN and ABC.

It seems ironic that rather than utilize Bestwick in this role from the beginning, it has taken ESPN five years to put the pieces of the puzzle in the right places. Now alongside of Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree, ESPN is poised for the first time to come at the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races with Bestwick leading the charge.

In all the media releases, interviews and social media conversations over the past five seasons there has never been a moment where Bestwick has complained about his role, about any of his fellow announcers or even offered a negative comment.

During a media teleconference on Tuesday, Bestwick was asked how he felt about getting the opportunity to return to a TV role he enjoyed in a sport he cherished. He simply said it was an honor to get a tap on the shoulder from the coach asking him to get in the game and play.

As Bestwick walks into the TV booth for the Brickyard 400 telecast, you have to wonder what kind of thoughts will be running through his head. This saga of TV frustration turned into a triumph of success through hard work is simply amazing.

In many ways over the last five seasons, Bestwick has truly been NASCAR TV's own version of "The Quiet Man."

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Post-Race Comments: Sprint Cup Series On ESPN From Atlanta

ESPN moved the Infield Pit Studio and Tech Garage down the road, but most of the production team stayed for the Tuesday race coverage.

There was no pre-race show for this event. The highlight of pre-race activity was the Grand Marshal saying "Gentlemen, spark your engines!" That was a classic.

Allen Bestwick was in the TV booth with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. On pit road were Jamie Little, Dave Burns, Dr. Jerry Punch and Vince Welch.

The stripped-down telecast resulted in a show focused much more on the racing and less on the hype and 11 on-air voices we normally hear. Bestwick kept things on the right track through a rain delay and several awkward incidents on the track.

The TV team sat through one red flag for rain, but hung in there and brought the telecast home before 4PM ET. While the information offered from the booth was accurate, the telecast started with the same type of focus on the early race leaders and the lack of an overall perspective on the field.

Late in the race, ESPN stayed commercial free for a significant amount of time. The rumor was that the network was going to practice with side-by-side commercial breaks in the second half of the telecast, but that did not happen.

The finish coverage focused on the two leaders crossing the line, but never cut back to watch the others on the lead lap racing. Announcers tried to reference it and after the race the drivers talked about it, but once again fans watching on TV never saw it. Tony Stewart fans were not happy.

Post-race consisted of interviews of tired drivers by tired reporters. It was a surprise to see a feature on Jeff Gordon's record run in full after the race. It was a long and extended race weekend and perhaps all parties are just happy it's over.

We invite your comments on the TV coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Atlanta on ESPN. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Atlanta (ESPN - 11AM ET)

Here we go with the rain-delayed race from the Atlanta Motor Speedway. ESPN is on the air at 11AM with a stripped-down broadcast team. There is no pre-race show.

Allen Bestwick will call the race with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch, Vince Welch and Dave Burns will be the pit road reporters.

These rain-delayed races often translate well to TV because many of the bells and whistles set-up for the weekend are gone. Lots of the TV equipment has rolled to Richmond for park, power and set-up.

ESPN is on the hotseat to deliver a solid broadcast. VERSUS had a gangbuster show Sunday with the IndyCar Series from Baltimore and yesterday the NHRA team delivered outstanding coverage of the "Big Go" from Indy.

Next week ESPN goes into hyper-promotion mode with a one hour post-race NASCAR Now show. That seems ironic as that show this week is buried after midnight due to US Open tennis coverage.

The challenge today is to stay with the racing for position as the other teams stay single file and fight tire wear. Passing on this green track may be at a premium as teams are going to work hard managing tires. This is a big concern.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series from the Atlanta Motor Speedway. To add your TV-related comments, just click on the comments button below.